LA Chargers Week 17 Overreactions: Justin Herbert the best rookie ever?
By Tyler Gallagher
The Los Angeles Chargers finished the 2020-2021 season out with their fourth win in a row, a 38-21 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the win, the Chargers end a season that was lost several weeks ago on a promising note and with a 7-9 record. However, that was not enough to save Anthony Lynn’s job.
Here are some of the biggest overreactions from Chargers fans regarding the full 2020-2021 season and Lynn’s last game with the Bolts in Week 17.
Overreaction #1: Justin Herbert had the best rookie season for an offensive player in NFL History
Justin Herbert finished up the 2020-2021 NFL Season with a win and several more rookie records.
Justin Herbert has the most throwing TDs for a rookie, most total TDs for a rookie, most completions for a rookie, and he fell just 39 yards short of having the most passing yards for a rookie. Along with those records, he achieved several more for having a certain number of yards or touchdowns in games as a rookie.
Justin Herbert now has the rookie records for:
Total TDs (36)Passing TDs (31) Completions (396)300-yard passing games (8) Multi-TD passing games (10) Three-TD passing games (6)
He winds up 39 yards short of the passing yards record. #Chargers
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) January 4, 2021
Based on stats alone, it appears fit to say that Herbert had the best rookie season for a quarterback in NFL History. Is it fair to say that he has had the best rookie season by an offensive player in NFL History?
That is a bold claim and to back up a bold claim, you need clear facts. If the facts that you prefer to go by are statistics, it is clear that Herbert had the greatest rookie season in NFL history by a quarterback.
However, there are plenty of more offensive positions to consider. In particular, we should consider the running back and wide receiver positions.
And there are certainly incredible candidates to consider at those positions.
At running back, Gale Sayers had a transcendent performance in 1965, scoring 14 rushing touchdowns and averaging 5.2 yards per carry. With 2,272 all-purpose yards, Sayers finished the season as one of the most important offensive weapons in the NFL, perhaps behind only Jim Brown. Sayers has a clear claim over Herbert in that he was clearly in the conversation as one of the top two or three most impactful offensive players in the NFL after one season.
At wide receiver, Randy Moss staked his claim as one of the greatest rookies in NFL history, as he had 1,313 yards and a stunning 17 receiving touchdowns. Moss finished third in receptions and first in touchdowns, also achieving elite status as a rookie.
Justin Herbert, on the other hand, is a player that many teams immediately wish they could replace their quarterback with, but his play likely just cracks the top ten at his own position. One could claim that Sayers and Moss have a better claim to the “GOAT rookie” title due to their elite statuses in year one.
However, some might claim that Justin Herbert’s rookie performance has more value to the team, as the quarterback plays the most important role in today’s NFL.
Yet, when staking this claim, it would be possible to state that quarterbacks other than Herbert have had greater impacts on their teams in the win department. For example, in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger won every one of his 13 starts as a rookie, leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 15-1 record, just one season after the team went 6-10.
Clearly, Roethlisberger had a better team and coaching behind him, but many prefer to use record as a measure of impact instead of statistics, which is fair considering a quarterback of a losing team is likely to put up better statistics, making this fact less important.
With all of this evidence, it is unfortunately impossible to clearly say that Justin Herbert had the best rookie season of an offensive player in NFL history. It is clear that Gale Sayers and Randy Moss had better rookie seasons at their respective positions than Justin Herbert had compared to his peers at quarterback.
Additionally, while Herbert has the clear statistical advantage at quarterback, other players can claim that they had similarly impactful seasons as rookie quarterbacks, preventing Herbert from even being the clear GOAT rookie quarterback.
Despite all of this, Justin Herbert absolutely belongs in this conversation since he has the best statistics at the most important and most difficult offensive position in the NFL as a rookie. The Los Angeles Chargers and their fans are lucky to have witnessed such a historic season and to have Herbert as their quarterback of the future.
Verdict #1: Slight overreaction (but he belongs in that conversation)